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Opening Bell: 03.12.09

Buffett Moves To #2 On Forbes Richest List (CNBC/Forbes)
The rankings are out, and it looks like O cubed has been dethroned by Bill Gates. The Big O was down $25B last year, a net loss of ~40%, Gates lost $18B leaving him with $40B.
"After slipping in recent years, the U.S. is regaining its dominance as a repository of wealth. Americans account for 44% of the money and 45% of the list's slots, up seven and three percentage points from last year, respectively. Bill Gates lost $18 billion but regained his title as the world's richest man. Warren Buffett, last year's No. 1, saw his fortune decline $25 billion as shares of Berkshire Hathaway fell nearly 50% in 12 months. Mexican telecom titan Carlos Slim Helú maintains his spot in the top three but lost $25 billion."
Salaries May Jump As Bonuses Drop (Bloomberg)
Let's face it: the money had to come from somewhere. NYC is just too expensive to not pay Bankers - and what? They're going to move the center of financial operations to Topeka, Kansas? Unlikely. I can see where we're going to get both, to be honest. The salaries are going to take a hike in the short run, and then when all this horseshit blows over there's going to be a slow return to a healthy bonus structure - a win/win situation (if inflation doesn't kill us in the meantime).
"Base salaries have ranged from about $80,000 to $300,000, with bonuses often climbing into the millions of dollars, Johnson said. Now, he says employees who received $250,000 in base salary may get an increase to $500,000 or $600,000."
Icahn In Fight With Lions Gate (Reuters)
"Lions Gate Entertainment Corp's negotiations with billionaire investor Carl Icahn have broken down, raising the specter of a hostile proxy battle for control of the independent film and television studio.
The company that produces the popular "Mad Men" cable TV show and "Saw" film franchise had been in talks to give Icahn a seat or two on its 12-member board, a Hollywood executive told Reuters last week."
A Look At Insurers (WSJ)
"The tumbling financial markets are dragging down the life-insurance industry, an important cog in the U.S. economy, as mounting losses weaken the companies' capital and erode investor confidence.
A dozen life insurers have pending applications for aid from the government's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, and the industry is expecting an answer to its request for a bank-style bailout in the coming weeks. The government so far hasn't said whether insurers will be eligible for the program."
Shoe Bandit Gets 3 Years (AP)
"The Iraqi journalist who threw shoes at then-President George W. Bush was convicted Thursday of assaulting a foreign leader and sentenced to three years in prison, lawyers said. He shouted "long live Iraq" when the sentence was read.
The verdict came after a short trial in which Muntadhar al-Zeidi, 30, pleaded not guilty to the charge and said his action was a "natural response to the occupation."
Some of his relatives collapsed after the verdict and had to be helped out of court. Others were forcibly removed by security forces when they became unruly, shouting "Down with Bush" and "Long live Iraq."
Al-Zeidi could have received up to 15 years in prison for hurling his shoes at Bush last December during a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
But defense lawyers said the judge showed leniency because of al-Zeidi's age and clean record. Many Iraqis consider al-Zeidi a hero for defiantly expressing his anger at a president who they believe destroyed their country after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Thousands across the Muslim world took to the streets to demand his release."